Why Lower Resting Heart Rate Do Matters For You
As a paramedic, I learned to check a person’s pulse when starting an exam. Their pulse rate indicated their number of heartbeats per minute (bpm). It was a quick and essential way of predicting many health conditions.
The risk of sudden cardiac arrest with a pulse rate of 1 ½ beats per second (90 bpm) is five times greater than the risk with a bpm of 60.
In this NutritionFacts video, Dr. Michael Greger warns that “Living up around 90 [bpm] increases heart disease risk at a level similar to smoking.”
Keeping tabs on your resting heart rate (RHR) is an excellent idea! Many of us now monitor our pulses with smartwatches so we can track our RHR.
Like all our bodily functions, it’s normal for RHR to fluctuate as our circumstances change. According to the American Heart Association website:
“The [resting heart] rate can be affected by factors like stress, anxiety, hormones, medication, and how physically active you are. An athlete or more active person may have a resting heart rate as low as 40 beats per minute. Now that’s chill!”
“Chill” is a highly desirable state! A meta-analysis headed by researchers from the University of Sydney’s George Institute for Global Health links every 10-bpm increase above 60 with a 10- to 20-percent higher risk of premature death.
So, if your pulse is much higher than 60 bpm, we recommend these three healthy lifestyle changes to lower your resting heart rate.
Lower Resting Heart Rate with Exercise
In this study at Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry’s Division of Behavioral Medicine, a group of sedentary adults aged 23 to 38 lowered their RHR 3.54 bpm on average after 12 weeks of aerobic conditioning.
Lower Resting Heart Rate with Meditation
Researchers from New Delhi’s Maulana Azad Medical College worked with 60 coronary artery disease patients. All had greater than 50 percent coronary-artery obstruction.
The patients were assigned randomly to two groups of 30. All of them took medication and were encouraged to make dietary modifications.
Only one group, however, practiced one hour of meditation five days a week. On two of the days, they meditated as a group.
On the remaining three days, they meditated at home alone and recorded the length of their meditations in diaries.
Before starting the study, their average resting heart rate was 72.2. When the study ended six months later, it had dropped to 68 — over 4 percent lower!
Their accompanying drop in blood pressure led the researchers to conclude:
“In the present study, it was concluded that there is significant decrease in the heart rate and systolic and diastolic blood pressure in CAD patients practicing meditation for a period of 6 months.”
Lower Resting Heart Rate With Diet
Yesterday, I posted about how legumes can improve arterial function while reducing cholesterol and inflammation. Today, I’m adding lowering your resting heart rate to their impressive list of health benefits.
At 42, I run about 20 miles weekly, do 1,000 push-ups and jumping jacks daily, and meditate regularly (not quite five hours a week!) I also track my average resting heart rate with my smartwatch.
It typically averages between 46 and 50. So exercise and meditation have helped control my RHR.
But what about the legumes in my plant-based diet?
Canadian researchers at Toronto’s St. Michael Hospital conducted a randomized controlled trial involving 121 participants with type 2 diabetes.
They separated the participants into two random groups and encouraged one to increase their legume intake (beans, chickpeas, and lentils) by at least 1 cup per day.
The other group increased their intake of whole-wheat products. After three months, the legume group had a 3.4-beat drop in resting heart rate. In other words:
Eating 1 cup of legumes a day for three months lowered RHR nearly as much as:
- Aerobic exercise training for three months.
- One hundred thirty hours of meditation for six months.
The evidence indicates that adopting any of these three healthy lifestyle choices can lower your resting heart rate.
So why not go with the easiest? Start adding 1 cup of legumes to your diet today!
How to Self-Check Your Resting Heart Rate
Even if you aren’t a paramedic, you can self-check your bpm. All you need are:
- A room with a wall clock
- A place to position yourself comfortably
- A time when you haven’t exercised or experienced stress for at least one hour. Preferably after a night of restful sleep.
Once you’re in position:
- Place two fingers on your wrist until you find your pulse.
- Start counting your pulse beats.
- Look at the clock to determine if your pulse beats more rapidly than the seconds pass.
If your pulse rate is close to 1 per second, your RHR probably falls in the average 50- to 70-bpm range.
For a more accurate RHR, set a timer for 30 seconds and count how often your pulse beats before it goes off. To determine your heart rate per minute, multiply that number by 2.